The Citizen Justice Network (CJN) trains community paralegals to be radio journalists. Our community paralegals are established, trusted activists and fighters for social change in their communities. We empower them with journalism skills necessary to help their communities and assist with access to justice.
CJN is about helping rural community members produce their own radio stories. We carefully guide the paralegals so they can broadcast their radio stories on their local community radio stations. The stories explore issues like human trafficking, domestic abuse, corruption, police violence and the abuse of inmates. Each story is based around a person who has come to a community advice office seeking help.
Primarily we want to create a network between community radio stations and their nearby advice offices. Also, we want to provide a bridge between community media and mainstream digital outlets. We promote these important stories on our website and trough our social media channels. We also find ways to republish the stories elsewhere online and feature the radio packages on nationwide radio stations so the stories have the widest possible reach. We want the stations and their listeners within this network to have access to these stories, but also those in urban centres like Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Under the guidance of our Radio Mentor, based in Johannesburg the community paralegals produce essential stories for their communities. The stories are often produced in local, African languages and without CJN these stories would otherwise be left unreported. CJN is bringing together the established networks of paralegals and community radio stations and improving their engagement with other stakeholders. We monitor how our paralegals and radio stations engage with other stakeholders in the community, for example: the police or the traditional leaders. We believe the dialogues that occur from these partnerships improve people’s lives.
The final step: by monitoring the production of these stories CJN is able to identify national patterns of injustice. These patterns are used to assist our projects of community development. Our aim of holding government accountable is to be collaborative: we see our goals as raising awareness, exposing dishonesty and providing a solution to government. This could take the form of an efficient information workshop: a day where government representatives provide community members with free legal advice around a particular concern. How we choose our topics for workshops would be dictated by the stories being produced in that particular area. We would let the needs of the community be our guide for where to organize stakeholder and government assistance.
News from these communities is so valuable and yet so rarely communicated. As a country we want to know what is going on in these places and we want the people who know best to tell us. This is the strength of CJN: to empower the community paralegals (who understand their communities the best) to report to the rest of the country on issues that matter to all of us.